Spray skirts keep water out of your kayak's cockpit and help prevent your boat from flooding in rough conditions. The main two types of materials used to make spray skirts are nylon and neoprene. Nylon skirts are lighter and cooler, but neoprene skirts excel in rough conditions that would collapse a nylon skirt and flood your kayak. Making a spray skirt for a kayak is a moderately challenging project that can be completed in a day. After you finish, you'll have a custom fitted spray skirt able to handle tough conditions.
Things You'll Need
- 1/8-inch neoprene
- 1/4-inch shock cord
- Spring clamps
- Neoprene glue
- Flexible plastic or metal sheet
- Duct tape
- 1-inch nylon webbing
Stretch the neoprene over the cockpit opening and secure it in place using shock cord, and then smooth the neoprene until the wrinkles disappear. Keep the tension slight and even across the surface; it doesn't need to be drum-tight. After the tension is even, clamp the neoprene and shock cord to the underside of the cockpit coaming.
Cut the excess neoprene away, leaving 3 inches of material beyond the outside edge of the kayak's coaming. Cut a wedge-shaped slot centered in the back of the coaming. This slot allows adjustment of tension in the shock cord.
Clean the neoprene with acetone. Once dry, fold the 3 inches of material you left beyond the outside edge of the coaming over onto the top of the coaming. Draw a line along the edge of the flap; this line marks the edge of your gluing surface.
Coat the gluing surface with two layers of neoprene glue.
Carefully fold up the flap onto the coaming's surface; the neoprene glue acts like contact cement and will bond instantly. While folding, try to compress the neoprene, which will help prevent ripples. If ripples occur, before bonding, cut a wedge of neoprene out at the ripple. This wedge removes the extra material and allows the material to lay flat.
Create a cone tower out of a plastic or flexible metal sheet and bond it with duct tape; the circumference of the top of the cone should be 3 to 4 inches shorter than your waist; make the bottom four inches longer than your waist.
Warp a rectangular piece of neoprene 2 inches taller than the finished height of your skirt around the cone tower, and then cut the neoprene so there are 2 inches of overlap at the seam. Clean the neoprene overlap with acetone and glue with neoprene glue.
Center the cone tower over the seat and draw around the outside of the tower. Remove the tower and make a second line 2 inches smaller than this. Cut to the smaller circle you just drew.
Insert the cone tower into the hole and suspend the tower at the height of your waist when you sit in the kayak. Take the deck's neoprene and fold 2 inches of the deck up onto the cone tower. Smooth out any wrinkles. Roll the tower's neoprene sleeve down onto the deck's neoprene to check for fit. Then clean with acetone and glue the overlap.
Remove the skirt from the cockpit's coaming, and sew a loop of 1-inch nylon webbing onto the front of the skirt. This loop should be secured with bar tacks in two places. Make sure that this loop can't rip off of the skirt; during a capsize this loop will release the skirt, allowing you out of the kayak.
Tips & Warnings
- Kayaks tip over; practice proper wet exit techniques in a controlled condition before you need it for real. Improper use of neoprene glue and acetone can result in health problems.
- Make your own spray skirt
- Sea Kayaker Magazine; Make Your Own Neoprene Spray Skirt; John Doornink; December 2005
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